Sergeant Accused in Bar Beating Takes Stand

Officer says he was trying to "pacify"

The Chicago police sergeant accused of beating two men at the Jefferson Tap and Grille took the stand in his own defense Tuesday, claiming he was trying to break up the fight, not hurt anyone.

Sgt. Jeffery Planey said he was trying to stop the fight from escalating, and did not throw any punches.

Planey denied punching one of the plaintiffs, Aaron Gilfand, in the face. He said he didn't see anyone else do it, either.

"When I was pulled in, Aaron had a hold of me. I had a hold of him. Next thing I know, everybody's piling into the vestibule," Planey told the judge.

Planey is also accused of obstruction of justice for allegedly waving away police cars that were responding to the bar brawl. The sergeant said he was just telling the officers that it wasn't a hold up, just a fight.

"Did you tell anyone to leave the area?" asked attorney Tom Needham.

"No," Planey replied.

Surveillance video shows the sergeant twice grabbing Gilfand outside the bar and slamming him against a wall.  Planey said he just "grabbed the guy's shirt and twisted around," and Gilfand hit the wall on his own.

Planey was indicted on six counts of aggravated battery, five counts of misconduct and two counts of obstruction of justice. Officers Gregory Barnes and Paul Powers, who were also involved in the fight, were charged with aggravated battery.

One of the plaintiffs, Barry Gilfand, testified earlier that Planey and Powers punched and kicked him once the fight moved outside the bar, the Trib reported.  Gilfand said the officers approached a pool table in the bar and started pushing and attacking them for no reason.  But on Tuesday, Planey said that Gilfand was acting "very antagonistic.  He was actually inciting and being inflammatory."

"As we were trying to pacify, he would escalate it," Planey said.

Closing arguments are expected to begin Wednesday.  The bench trial will be decided by Circuit Judge Thomas V. Gainer Jr.

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